Event Summary: 21st March – Local Government and Sustainability
There was another great turn out and lively discussion for this second session of the Euroa Environmental Seminar Series held in Euroa on the 21st March.
The session was focussed on local government and sustainability. Kate Stothers, spokesperson for Strathbogie Voices, took the opportunity to launch the Strathbogie Voices Community Consultation Report, a document compiled from community feedback gathered over four months late last year. The report covers what the community values about this region as well as what their expectations are with regards to local government representation. This report is available here.
Three guest speakers – Mike Hill, Winsome McCaughey and Janet Bolitho, all of whom are former councillors and Mayors, then gave the 70 attendees an informed overview of local Council responsibilities and opportunities with regards to sustainability issues.
Mike’s presentation provided a clear picture of Council’s role and community expectations. He advised that “sophisticated local government is based on participation” and confirmed that “sustainability is core business for local government. There is no argument”. He emphasised the need for Council organisations to have competent personnel, with the Councillors’ most important task being the appointment of the CEO. He noted that it was also possible for one key driver to inspire and bring change.
Winsome McCaughey’s explained her experience of the local planning processes and the Boho community’s frustration in its dealings with Council over the Warrenbayne Shooting Range proposal. Lessons with regards to understanding the planning framework, mobilising community action and communicating with and supporting Councillors were drawn from this local case study.
Janet Bolitho presented some inspiring case studies from other local government areas, including collaborations across Councils with highly successful results. She also noted that the Goulburn Broken GreenHouse Alliance (of which Strathbogie Council is a member) is viewed as one of the less-achieving Alliances of this kind within the state.
All speakers signalled strongly the need for community to be informed and to use that information to ensure Council met and advanced community expectations.
The presentations were followed by table discussions which brought about a list of themes that will be developed into community-driven Action Plans. Here are the list of themes:
- Mobilise ourselves for the next Council elections
- Community appraisal of the CEO position
- Reinstate an Environment Officer and supporting committee
- Develop a Councillor candidate questionnaire in the lead up to the next election
- Build a collective vision for the Shire of Strathbogie
- Develop the 2016 Council Plan
- Leadership by example
- Educate ourselves in the strategic and planning documents and processes of Council
- Educate ourselves in Council roles and responsibilities
- Develop a Community Resource Bank
- Strengthen the Goulburn Broken Greenhouse Alliance
- Increase the use of social media
These themes will be priorities at a future workshop with the community (details here). We will then develop the high priority themes into Action Plans for the community to drive.
Photos by Rob Colvin